by George Downs
Nowhere has the onward march of Jeremy's vision been so hegemonic than in the North West. Members of CLPD & Momentum in the region have been fighting tirelessly to go from minimal left representation in the region to taking every single Regional Board & regional CAC seat during the Blackpool regional conference in November 2017. This hegemony was no clearer than amongst delegates from CLPs in Merseyside where two of out the three on the right slate received no votes in the Regional Board election.
The much-needed development of the Labour Party's democracy review has made a promising start in the North West. After an introduction by Katy Clark which set out the terms of reference for the review, it was up to the grassroots membership to discuss and present contributions regarding their priorities for the democratisation of our party. Jeremy has made it clear that, to energise Labour as an electoral force, we need to overhaul our party structures so that no community is left disenfranchised from influencing our policy-making processes when we win government office and begin to forge a path towards state power.
However, the Labour Party already can implement policies in local government. Liverpool Wavertree CLP and Liverpool Walton CLP have both overwhelmingly passed motions refusing to recognise the Local Campaign Forum AGM in October and calling for a rerun with regional oversight. Therefore, it was great to see the urgency of delegates from Liverpool Wavertree CLP and members from Liverpool University Labour Students who raised issues at Blackpool surrounding the disenfranchisement of the membership during the recent shenanigans at Liverpool's LCF. Jeremy & Katy listened intently as it was emphasised for the need for remitted rule changes in Brighton - such as reintroduction of Local Government Committees (with 75% CLP & 25% affiliate composition) - to be at the forefront of the democracy review.
Another failure of local accountability structures was highlighted during Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram's speech at Blackpool. Not only has Andy McDonald and the front bench pledged that the imminently incoming Labour government will scrap Driver Only Operation (DOO) on our railways, but also almost every single CLP across Merseyside has passed a motion supporting RMT industrial action on Merseyrail. One Liverpool Wavertree CLP delegate challenged Steve on his contradictory position causing our Metro Mayor to become very defensive and hostile on the issue. Merseyrail would be in line with national party policy on the issue of DOO, if only LCFs across Merseyside were democratically constituted and able to exert collective control over Labour's local government and devolved city region policy programmes - but they aren't, so let's fight for democratic Local Government Committees with some teeth!
George Downs, CLPD North West Organiser, Secretary of Liverpool Momentum, Co-Chair of Liverpool University Labour Students
By Jennifer James
More than forty party delegates attended the CLPD fringe at November 2017's NW Labour conference in Blackpool to hear Diane Abbott and others speak on party democracy. Ms Abbott spoke of her fond memories of national Blackpool conferences where she 'plotted and organised late into the night' with comrades. The Hackney MP told the room how Jeremy, as a long-standing member of CLPD, feels strongly about making the party more democratic and had begun the process by giving less time on the conference stage to the shadow cabinet and more to delegates.
Ms Abbott said: 'A more democratic party is a stronger party. In the past decade, if we had had a more democratic party and listened to our members, we would have had better policy on a range of issues such as housing, transport and specifically social housing. We would have had better policies on benefits and on Iraq. If the party members had been invited to make their views clear on Iraq then we would have never gone to war on the coattails of George Bush. More democracy would have given Tony Blair a better legacy.'
Ms Abbott said the main reason for improving party democracy is that change is best rooted in communities: and a very democratic party is better placed to govern. These sentiments were echoed by speaker Councillor Mohammed Azam, who said that the key to democracy is grassroots activism: and that it is up to us to recruit in our communities for CLPD, Labour and the unions. Mr Azam said: 'Socialists are no longer banging our heads against wall. Now is our opportunity to make a change.'
Lorraine Beavers gave an inspiring speech about how, as a movement, we need people who want to make a difference not people who are there for a job. Ms Beavers said: 'Our members are radical, our activists are radical. It's now up to us to listen to the grassroots, put our names forward and get off our arses!'. Skwawkbox blogger Steve made the point that democracy favours the left: 'If the party is more democratic: the left will win.' He said that tactics are being employee to control the left and dirty tricks are being played at all levels to roll back gains. Steve said there are two crucial battlegrounds: social media and local activism.
The final speaker, Pete Willsman, entertained the room with tales about Tony Blair ('I always thought he was a Tory') and reminded those present of the strength of Eddie Izzard on the other slate and urgency of gaining left slate CLP nominations for the upcoming ballot for NEC places. Pete said that the women's conference should have key policies brought to national conference for a vote.
Pete stressed to all that there is much to do in the coming months regarding submissions for the Democracy Review and elections and gave the room its 'homework'.